As I am writing this, the holidays are upon us. It’s a wonderful time of year to celebrate with loved ones and to reflect on everything we have to be grateful for. In the new year, I hope we can continue to be generous with one another and work to improve the lives of all Canadians.
In 2021, British Columbians experienced unprecedented impacts from the climate emergency – heat domes, forest fires, atmospheric rivers and catastrophic floods. Over the past six years, Canada has failed to meet a single climate target and now has the worst record in the G7. In the new year, I will continue to push the government for climate action that matches the scale of the crisis. I will also spearhead a study in the Environment Committee on fossil fuel subsidies and pressure the Liberals to eliminate them for good.
While Victorians are worried about the climate emergency, they are also facing multiple intersecting crises. The toxic drug supply is having devastating impacts on our community. I will continue to push for evidence and health-based approaches to the overdose crisis – for decriminalization and a safe supply.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and the recent emergence of the Omicron variant threatens to undo much of the progress we have made. We know that without a coordinated global vaccination effort, new variants will continue to arise. Yet, our government has blocked global patent waivers that would temporarily ease intellectual property rights related to COVID-19 vaccines, to facilitate their production in the developing world. Vaccine equity impacts us all, and waiving patents would save lives both abroad and here in Canada.
The pandemic has exposed the gaps in our social safety net, and it has intensified the growing inequalities in our society.
It has brought into sharp focus how vulnerable we are when disaster hits. Most of all, it has shown us that we need to take better care of people.
Canadians with disabilities and seniors were among the groups hardest hit. Disabled Canadians account for 41 per cent of those living in poverty. That is why New Democrats have been advocating for a guaranteed basic livable income for Canadians with disabilities and for seniors.
In our region, the housing crisis has reached unprecedented levels. So many people are struggling to afford rent and have given up on the idea of ever owning a home. While the Liberals continue to protect wealthy speculators that drive up the cost of housing, New Democrats are calling on the government to immediately put in place a foreign buyers tax, implement a flipping tax and ban blind bidding, while also investing in building 500,000 affordable homes and ensuring housing is treated as a human right.
We are also advocating for a ‘By Indigenous For Indigenous Housing Strategy’ with funding to address Indigenous housing needs. In the wake of the discovery of increasing numbers of unmarked graves at residential “schools,” we must ensure the government moves from promises to action on reconciliation. Indigenous people are still fighting this government in court for basic human rights. New Democrats will continue to push the government to end these needless court battles, to fully implement the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and to back up their promises with immediate action that improves the lives of Indigenous people.
In the coming year, I will continue to keep in touch through public meetings (virtually, if health guidelines necessitate), newsletters, emails and social media. I value your feedback, so please attend a meeting or contact my community office any time.
From my family to yours, have a happy and safe holiday season and my very best wishes for 2022.
Laurel Collins is the MP for Victoria.